United in Grief? Emotional Communities Around the Far-Right Terrorist Attack in Hanau

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

United in Grief? Emotional Communities Around the Far-Right Terrorist Attack in Hanau


  • Débora Medeiros Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • Ana Makhashvili Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany


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Abstract:  Drawing on theories of affect, emotion, and new institutionalism, we analyze discourse around the right-wing terrorist attack in Hanau, Germany, to identify the different ways in which emotions and affect circulate on legacy media and Twitter and how they help establish varying emotional communities. Building upon an understanding of journalism as an affective institution, our article takes a close look at how journalism attempts to assert its role in public spheres not only by circulating information but also by providing emotional interpretations of events. Journalism’s emotional interpretations, however, do not remain unchallenged. With the emergence of the hybrid media system, users engage in various forms of interaction on social media platforms, forming “affective publics” by connecting through their affective reactions to current issues and events. In these interactions, distinct emotional communities may emerge, built around performative, political emotions. Our data comprises various news shows aired on the German public service broadcaster ARD as well as a dataset of tweets about #Hanau that were collected in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The results of our mixed-methods analysis reveal that different performances of grief played a central role both on TV news and on social media. On TV, grief was nationally connotated and aimed at uniting Germany’s population. On social media, it fueled anti-racist activism, as seen on the hashtag #SayTheirNames, honoring the victims of the attack.

Keywords:  affective publics; emotional communities; far-right terrorism; Hanau; journalism; new institutionalism; social media; social network analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i3.5438


© Débora Medeiros, Ana Makhashvili. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.